Tepera's been MVP of Cubs' incredible bullpen streak
Ryan Tepera recorded his first save Thursday since 2018 when he threw for the Toronto Blue Jays.
The lack of saves hides the fact that Tepera would be a strong candidate for Cubs' MVP during the past two weeks.
The Cubs bullpen continued its incredible run of not allowing an earned run for 34⅔ innings, a span of 11 games and the longest streak in franchise history. Tepera's contributions during the streak are 6⅔ innings pitched and not a single walk or hit allowed. He's faced 26 batters and retired them all -- with the exception of a couple errors -- with 12 strikeouts.
"It's kind of ironic, the last time we played the Pirates at home, I got a chance to close the game out (on May 7) and didn't get the job done and Rex (Brothers) came in and closed it out," Tepera said after Thursday's game. "That night was when I was really like, 'Man, I've got to change something.'
"I had been struggling with mechanics a little bit and I just wasn't having any fun. So my mindset just changed after that. That was kind of when that good roll started. A little bit of mental (adjustment) and a couple tweaks of mechanics to go with it."
Tepera has worked the most during the bullpen's shutout streak. Craig Kimbrel and Dan Winkler are at 5⅓ innings, Tommy Nance 4⅔, Keegan Thompson 4 and Andrew Chafin 3⅓. Justin Steele, Brothers, Dillon Maples and Brad Wieck have all contributed between 1-2 innings.
It hasn't always been easy. Tepera came in for Winkler on Sunday in St. Louis and got out of a bases-loaded, nobody out jam in the seventh inning.
"I tell you what, the other day in St. Louis was fun," Tepera said. "We hadn't had that kind of atmosphere here in a long time. It's probably been a year and a half since we had that kind of crowd noise. You almost forget what it's like to pitch in the big leagues."
Tepera said the pitchers don't talk much about the streak among themselves. He's more wrapped up in a personal competition.
"We've got a little competition going between me and Chafin for most games pitched right now (currently tied at 24)," he said. "It's always good to have a little competition and we have fun with it.
"We have a good group of guys here, especially in the bullpen. I think that's a big key why we've been on such a good roll, just passing the torch along and handing it to the next guy and carrying each other and picking each other up at the same time."